Owning time

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I’m writing this morning, as I often do, from a chair, outside. But instead of my own patio, I’m sitting on the front porch of my parents’ home.

The sun will be up soon. I have my coffee, my words. The sights and sounds are just a bit different than my normal routine.

I’ve been scrolling through Facebook off and on the last two days, reading post after post of back-to-school photos. Most parents lamenting the passing of time. Wishing it to slow down.

I do not.

Even though my days seem to flutter past, more and more quickly, I do not wish for it to change. I do not wish to go back in time to when my daughter was smaller. Or for the current moments to go into slow motion.

I think my daughter has many adventures ahead of her. And I think I have many ahead of me. We can’t have them if we stay exactly as we are right now. And for all the nostalgia I feel about childhood, I wouldn’t go back to my own, or hers. Each new year has brought us to new and better places.

I am sitting on my parents’ porch this morning because they took a little road trip. Just the two of them. I’m here keeping an eye on the dog, and in case my grandmother needs something.

When my mom called to check in last night, there was joy in her voice. The sound of someone who had been exploring. It made me smile.

When I was growing up, we took 4 actual “family vacations” that I can recall. And very rarely do I remember my parents getting away, just the two of them.

When my dad retired last September, this was one of my hopes for him and my mom. That they would take some time, after 39 years of marriage, and just be together. At home, of course, but also away from home. That they would set out on a few adventures of their own.

I know, from my own life experience, the toll that the daily grind takes on a person. And even the ones who love where they live and the lives they lead need a change of scenery every now and then.

Dad is home every day now. And every night. Not something that has always been the case. My grandmother moved in with my parents two years ago. They got a dog last year. There have been many changes to the lifestyle of the people who raised me, and their daily routine.

I’m here. In the house where I spent the last portion of my adolescence. The place I’ve come back to many times when my life has been in shambles.

But it’s different now.

Certainly the aesthetics have changed since I lived here. New paint. New floors. Refinished countertops. An addition built for my grandmother off of my old bedroom.

But that’s not what I feel is different now.

This house used to be a place of schedule. Alarm clocks. Off to work, little time to play.

And now……there is no thermos waiting for my dad to fill and take in his truck for his journey of a thousand miles. The pipe tally books no longer sit on the end of the bar with notes from his day, his work. The alarm clock sits, only telling the time. Very rarely used to awaken anyone. My parents are no longer bound to that clock.

I suppose that is why I don’t wish for my current days to slow down. Because even with all the bittersweet moments, with each day that passes, I’m that much closer to no longer being bound to a clock either.

I want to own time. Not for time to own me.

I’m about to wash out my coffee cup and get ready for work. I will go awaken my 8th grader and drop her off for the first day of a new school year.

And time will own us today.

But not forever.

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Filtered Beauty

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This is me. At 35 years old. Filtered.

When I was a kid, I was a complete nerd. Frizzy hair. Glasses. Braces. So skinny people thought I had an eating disorder though I ate like a teenage boy on steroids.

But other than my Dad and my Mom and my grandfather (who told me every time I saw him), I don’t remember people ever telling me, as a child, that I was “pretty”.

I remember them saying it about my sister. Because she was. She is. Blue eyes, dimples. A smile that lights up a room.

I just don’t remember people telling me anything other than I looked “puny” or commenting on whether or not I ever ate.

I don’t really remember my first husband telling me I was pretty, either. But after I went through some intense medical issues shortly after we married, I remember him asking me when I was going to go on a diet. Or reminding me that I was supposed to be on one.

I went from having a thin, flat body type to one full of curves and rolls and dimensions I was not used to in a matter of a couple of months. And then I got pregnant. So, of course, my body has now never been the same.

I never had to watch what I ate. I never had to exercise. I never had to be disciplined about my body. For 20 years. And I’m just now learning how to take better care of it.

It’s a roller coaster. But I’m doing better. Again. For now. I know better than to say I’ve got this area of my life under control because I’m weak. And I love food. And it’s the south and we plan entire days around meals.

Still, I see progress.

And not just progress in my daily discipline of making better dietary choices or getting my ass to the walking track or on the treadmill.

I’m finally seeing myself as beautiful. Just as I am. Not because of what anyone else sees or says. But because I like what I see.

Maybe it’s just my problem, this insecurity about my looks. But in a world of selfies and fashion and fitness advice, I think the large majority of the population DOES care and has their own hang-ups about their self-image.

I don’t think I’d feel much differently about my looks than I do today if I’d been showered with compliments on my appearance all my life. In fact, most of the most beautiful people I know struggle with insecurity. I could blame that on a lot of things, but at the end of the day, I think the simple truth is: we’re just human. And we all have a need to be told our worth. And somehow, in this crazy, messed up society, a lot of us have equated that worth with appearance.

I’ve developed a lot of unhealthy habits over the last 25 years, but none so unhealthy as that one.

I think several things have helped shift my thinking. But mostly, maturity and the love of a partner in life who accepts me so unconditionally and has seen me with “filtered eyes” long before our smartphones came along.

This is also me. Unfiltered. Makeup sweated off. Mascara blurred from tears cried. I love makeup. I love it because I like the way wearing it makes me feel. It’s a kind of protective mask between me and the world. But I also love the freedom of not wearing it if I don’t want to. And finally being okay with how that feels too.

I love a good selfie. Filtered or not. I love to see women embrace their individual beauty with confidence and be proud of the face in that picture.

I’m sure there will be those who judge my photos. And yours. But that’s okay too. Those people will never know, nor take the time to understand, what it often takes in terms of personal growth to reach a point where some of us have any semblance of physical confidence.

So post that selfie, girlfriend. Filtered or unfiltered, the people that really know you always thought you were beautiful. It just takes some time, sometimes, to see it yourself. And it’s okay to feel pretty. As long as you remember, you’re so much more than that.

Top 10 Tuesday: Summer, 2017

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Weather-wise, summer in Mississippi will be with us for at least another 8 weeks. But as for freedom, well, that is slowly coming to an end.

School resumes in 8 days. I’ll have an 8th grader in my house. The spontaneity of some things will give way to routine.

Here are some things that have made this summer one to remember:

10. Day trips

I’ve documented our trips, and if you missed them, you can click on the Travel category on the home page and go back to read them.

They’ve worn me smooth out, but so many memories were made. I wouldn’t trade them for all the naps in the world. And I do love a good nap (or three) on the weekend.

9. Work

Hey, I said the summer was “memorable”- that doesn’t always translate into “enjoyable”.

In my life, I was always taught, “work before play”. This summer has been one of the busiest I’ve ever had, professionally speaking. My stress level has been through the roof and I’m hoping that things will begin to calm down a bit as August begins.

Reagan has learned a lot about work also. In setting a goal of buying her own laptop for school and photo-editing, she compelled my parents to hire her for work around their house and farm. They obliged, and there is a new shiny laptop on our kitchen table this morning.

It’s been really good for her, having a routine like she’s had these last 6 weeks or so. And she’s learned a lot. I’m proud of her for learning about what it means to work hard, save her money, meet a financial goal.

8. Late nights

I’m pretty religious about being in bed at a semi-decent hour. This summer though, I’ve taken in a couple of 10 o’clock movies with the kiddo, stayed up late hanging out with her, just embracing my nocturnal side.

I’ve never been a “night” person. I suppose I’m turning into a morning person, but really, I’m more of a ……..10 a.m.-awake-on-my-own-with-no-alarm clock person.

But the late nights have just meant more time with my daughter. And we’ve had a lot of fun.

7. The weather

It’s the south. It’s summer. It’s hot, humid, and downright oppressive…..usually.

This, by all previous standards has been a pretty mild season. We’ve had our share of heat waves this year, but Sunday night, hubs and I had an outdoor Dairy Queen date. And it was FABULOUS weather. I can’t tell you the last time I sat outside in late July, even past sunset, and didn’t feel like I was melting.

6. The writing

I’m very close to meeting a writing goal. Had I not been in such a funk during April and May, I’d probably already have met it.

When you blog, you do so for several reasons. But one of them is to share your words with the world. So far, 2017 has been my best year to date since I started A Pensieve View. I’ve almost doubled my page views from last year and July has just ended. It’s been an exciting year for me as a writer.

I’ve let go of some things I thought I wanted as a writer as well. For the most part, anyway. And that growth and acceptance of what this part of me needs to be and was intended for has made a huge difference in how I approach it.

I’ve had to learn how to be an artist. I think I’m growing a lot in that department. And it’s very liberating.

5. The transformation

I’m not the only one growing as an artist. Reagan has blossomed a lot this year in terms of embracing her inner artist as well. She’s a very good writer in her own right, and an amazing photographer.

The beaten down shell of a girl that sat before me at the end of basketball season has been reborn into someone who picked herself up, dusted herself off, and discovered new and exciting talents within her own being.

I can’t wait to see how she uses her talents in the coming days.

4. Nature

This is the first summer in the 11 years we’ve been married that none of our plants have died under the oppression from the summer heat. We’re learning what survives and thrives and have been focusing our gardening energy on those. *Kudos to my husband for keeping the plants watered.

3. Giselle

I bit the bullet and bought a new car at the end of March. She’s already got 10K miles on her, but I’m enjoying racking them up.

I think we’re in for a lot of memories together.

2. Simplicity

With every passing season, I grow to appreciate the little things in life, more and more. Like the beautiful sunset and hot cup of coffee I’m enjoying right now.

1. Opportunity

I received a promotion at work several months ago. I’m exploring new territory in my professional life and it is definitely a challenge.

But challenges were meant to be conquered. I have no doubt that I will do just that. And on the days that I’m feeling overwhelmed, I will let my mind wander back through the memories of this summer. Remind me of all that these last few months have taught me, and look ahead with hope and determination to make the next season as memorable as the last.

Muddy Water 

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The water wasn’t clear yesterday. But its soothing sounds were. I let the waves lap at my feet, felt my heart settle into a peaceful rhythm. Allowed my mind to wander, sitting in companionable silence with a kindred spirit on the shores of an island still very raw and mostly free of people and their noise.

The gulf is never the same. My cousin and I were discussing this yesterday while we walked on the beaches of Dauphin Island. Every day, they look different. The tides and what they bring in, take out, result in different scenery from one day to the next.

What gets left behind are often broken bits of shell. Trash. 

But sometimes there are intact pieces of beauty. Whole shells, perfected by their trauma, that somehow managed to arrive at the shore without blemish.

Little survivors of the waves. 

If you’ve ever seen an angry sea, that’s pretty amazing to stop and think about. That anything so small and fragile could survive, and not be broken. 

What is the secret to that, I wonder? I would suppose that it has a lot to do with resistance. Not fighting the tide, but simply allowing it to carry, push, pull, and then finally allow it to roll onto shore.

There’s an expression for people who remain on the coast during inclement weather. We say, “They’re going to ride it out.”

It simply means, “We’re going to prepare for the worst, hope for the best, and let nature have it’s way. And when it is done, we’ll take the next step. Whatever that may be.”

Sometimes, they have to go. The threat is just too high. The potential just too threatening. Higher ground has to be found. 

I used to think that this must be an exhausting lifestyle. Until I realized that it is the same for everyone whether we live near the tides or not. 

And we all hope, like the unbroken shell, that by hanging on, a peaceful shoreline awaits us.

My wish

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The kiddo is off today on another adventure. She’s been so many places this summer. North Carolina, two summer camps, and lots of little day trips with me. Tomorrow she sets sail with her Dad to Cozumel. 

I love to watch her experience new things. In just over 4 months, she’ll be 14. That much closer to leaving my nest. She wants to go to college at Oxford University in London. That’s her first choice. Her second? Anywhere that isn’t here. Not that she doesn’t love her home, but just that she wants to see more of the world.

I was proofing her summer reading paper last night. She wrote it on the book, The Help, by Katherine Stockett, a Mississippi native. Her understanding of the subject matter, the discussions we had about it…… The kid just gets it. Her level of perception scares me sometimes.

Reagan is a bright, intelligent young woman. My wish, my greatest desire for her, is for her to create a life that makes her happy.

Her path is not my own. I cannot make the decisions that are coming. Only she can set her path. 

Truth be known, I’ll be happy as long as she’s happy. Whether that means she achieves her goal of studying abroad, or takes classes at our community college. I just want her to pursue her passions. Because life is much too short not to.

I want her to see places. Meet people. Experience the big beautiful world in ways that I never will. I want her to grow. Continue to evolve and be shaped into this beautiful person she is growing into. 

When I first laid eyes on her, I knew I had my work cut out for me. She was suspicious, untrusting from the very start. You could see it in her eyes. She asked a thousand questions as soon as she could form the words. She still asks. But mostly, now, she listens. Absorbs. 

It’s crazy, being a parent to this child that outgrows me a little more each day. I’ve never pretended to have the answers I didn’t. I’ve never lied to her. Maybe that’s why those untrusting eyes look at me differently than they did the first time I saw them. 

Some things haven’t changed though. She still takes my breath away. Just watching her. Knowing she came from me. That this tall, gorgeous creature actually came from my own body. It’s startling. Humbling. Inspiring.

I used to worry, constantly, about what kind of adult I was shaping. I know all too well just how much what I say and do will impact her beyond the here and now. It’s a tall order. 

Of all the disagreements my husband and I have had throughout our 11 year marriage, this child has been the source of most of them. We have different parenting styles. Take different elements with varying degrees of seriousness. I knew, early on, that my daughter would be someone with whom I’d have to pick my battles. Her stubbornness exceeds anything I’ve ever known. Even within myself. My husband, who, for all practical purposes, is the father in her life, sees raising a child very differently. Each battle one that can and should be fought and won by the parent. He’s got her respect. But so do I. Different strategies. The same result. 

Sometimes I honestly don’t know how we’ve all survived this blended family thing and still love each other. Still enjoy each other. Each one of us is so different from the others. But survive, we have. Still surviving. Still learning. Still loving, even when we drive each other insane.

Another worry I have always carried is just how much this blended family, and coming from divorced parents would affect my daughter. 

But I see where it’s helped her more than it’s hurt her. She learned, early on, that life, sometimes, means moving on after dreams are leveled. 

She’s learned that people let you down. And you have to rise above. And you will get crushed, but you can always get back up. 

She’s learned that different doesn’t necessarily mean bad. That perfect childhoods don’t create perfect people. That imperfect childhoods don’t create insurmountable obstacles. 

I look at her and think about who she is becoming. Who she already is. I re-read my post last night about where we were at the end of basketball season. How broken we both were by people that I still struggle to forgive for the pain they caused. 

But I look at her now, 6 months later, and see a different child in front of me. She’s always been resilient, but it takes more time now for her to be okay again. And that’s okay. I think that just means that the lessons she learns from adversity will stay with her even longer. And that’s a good thing.

Because, perhaps more than any other wish, my desire for her is the same as the desire for my own life. Not just that she can rise above, be reborn, but that she will never stop letting the good and bad shape her for the best.

If who she is now is any indication, the world needs to look out. My daughter is growing up. And when she finally spreads her wings, it’s going to be quite a sight to see. It already is.

Dawning

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The darkness always gives way to light.

The abyss of the night can seem to last for an eternity. Restlessness abounds. Despair encroaches on the heart. 

There is nothing to do but wait. Wait. Wait.

It isn’t a spotlight that demands attention when the dawn arrives. Only a gradual revelation. A slow birth. Its ascension, a moment by moment experience. One that cannot be rushed.

What was silent begins to awaken, heralding the hope that peaks beyond the horizon. Weeping ceases, and gives way to song.

Slowly, what was hidden and cloaked in darkness is revealed. Chills turn to warmth. Silhouettes take shape and dimension, and truth is uncovered. Dreams become possible again.

It is a daily dance of transformation. The old becoming new. The ending becoming a beginning. The slate wiped clean. A new canvas unveiled. 

Mother Nature calls to me, “Create.” Coat your quill in the ink of possibility. The unwritten story of this day is ready to be told. 

What will it say?

Perfectionist 

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Winning the battle over self, when self is a perfectionist, is an elusive victory.

Extending grace to anyone else is easier than extending it to myself, but even that can be a struggle.

The thing is, I don’t really understand why I’m a perfectionist. Why contentment eludes me. I have moments of it. But a life of it? It requires a special kind of grace. And discipline. 

I seem to exist in a constant state of contradiction: craving intimacy and relationship, while desperately needing solitude. Craving success yet needing to create, just to create. Striving for perfection, and yet understanding that the little, imperfect moments are what makes life worth living.

I’ve been trying to have my quiet morning time for the last two days. The neighbor’s cattle seem to have other ideas. This morning, as my mood became irritated at the interruptions of bellows, another sound caught my attention. A squeak. A vibration. And then I saw it. A hummingbird, visiting my flowers.

When the cows started up, I almost just got up and went inside. Drank my coffee from the quiet recesses of a dark room. Ignored the sunrise.

But I’d have missed it. The hummingbird. And I love hummingbirds. They are fascinating, resilient, beautiful little creatures. 

It gave me a surge of joy to watch one this morning amidst the chaos of another noisy start to my day.

And that’s how it is to live with a perfectionist nature. You have to learn how to look for the good. The pleasant. The fleeting moments of what is pleasant, right, and joyful in the moments of frustration, irritation, and brokenness.

I become more aware, the older I get, of the ridiculousness of striving for perfection. I lie to myself, telling myself what would satisfy me. All the while knowing that the ideal is both unattainable and impossible. 

I can only accept the moments of good, and strive for more of those moments. Understanding that those are really the best anyone can hope for. The moments. 

I feel a lot like the hummingbird these days. 

Most days. 

I feel as though I expend most of my energy just trying to get enough. Busy. In constant motion.

A relentless creature surrounded by slow, unconcerned bovine. 

The cows will stand and stare at me for what feels like an eternity. The hummingbird flits about like it has no time to spare. 

It is in this type of paradox that I see the two extremes of life. If there is a balance to be found, I haven’t discovered it yet. But more and more, that has become the desire of my life. Perfection will never happen. But balance….now that seems attainable. 

So somewhere in that paradox I live, and create, and forgive – others, and myself. And I try, each day, to tip the scales back and forth between the ideal and the reality, until contentment is found.

Top 10 Tuesday: Favorite Old Movies

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My daughter and I are watching The Wonder Years. It makes me nostalgic. I didn’t grow up in the 70s, I’m an 80’s baby. But I grew up watching some great film classics that I would watch again and again. 

These are in no particular order, and this is by no means a comprehensive list because I’m sure I’ll think of at least 20 more when I finish this post.

10. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor. Need I say more? Except maybe that it’s based on a Tennessee Williams play. 

The family drama is palpable throughout this movie. It resonates with me in many ways. People trying desperately to come to terms with their relationships. With themselves. 

Did I mention Paul Newman? I love that man. 

9. The Rainmaker

Humor and a flawless performance by Katherine Hepburn. Burt Lancaster, larger than life. These two steal every scene they’re in and Hepburn’s monologue about the kind of man she wants brings me to tears every time.

I want him to be able to tell me who he is, and tell me who I am, too. I want to do things for him. All kinds of things and we never have to say “thank you” because “thank you” is our whole life together. 

I’ve always wanted to see it performed on stage. 

8. The Heiress

Olivia De Havilland and Montgomery Clift. I didn’t discover Clift until I was older, but God, what an actor. This movie has one of the best “in your face” endings of all time. I get chills every time I watch it.

7. To Kill a Mockingbird

It’s my favorite book of all time, and one of those rare instances where the film did the book poetic justice. 

I’m perpetually in love with Gregory Peck and his performance as Atticus Finch. 

This movie was so beyond its time in terms of subject matter. Socially conscious with some of the best juvinelle performances by young actors that I’ve ever seen.

6. John Wayne

Some actors are so much a part of my nostalgia, I can’t pick just one of their movies to share. I grew up on a lot of John Wayne. Between my Dad, my Pawpaw, and my male cousins, I was destined to love him or hate him.

I love him. 

My favorites include:

True Grit

The Cowboys

Rooster Cogburn

North to Alaska

Cahill, U.S. Marshall

His one liners are part of my vocabulary forever. His heroic persona one that I hold with great affection.

5. Yankee Doodle Dandy

Most years, without fail, my family watched this movie every Independence Day. 

I know nearly every line, every song, by heart. 

4. Harvey

I could probably do an entire post on Jimmy Stewart, another of my all time favorite actors. This is a quirky little film that is chock full of humor and mystery. A grown man with an imaginary friend that happens to be a 6 foot white rabbit?

I don’t have a copy of this one. I need to get it. I haven’t seen it in years.

3. Musicals

Oh man do I love musicals. Since I couldn’t pick just one here either, here’s another list of some of my favorites:

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

Oklahoma

Calamity Jane

The Unsinkable Molly Brown

They don’t make musicals like they used to. La La Land came as close as anything I’ve seen since my childhood as being something that I would include as part of a list of true musical, artistic masterpieces.

2. You Can’t Take it With You

I’ve always loved Jean Arthur. She was in several movies that I enjoyed. This one is my favorite of hers and it also stars, you guessed it, Jimmy Stewart.

This is a hilarious Frank Capra film that, like all of his movies, leaves you with the warm fuzzies. I like watching movies that make me feel like that. Sometimes you just need to see a happy ending. Even if it’s cheesy, or unrealistic. Life is hard enough without everything being so harsh. And speaking of life…..

1. It’s a Wonderful Life

Hey, so I’m in love with Jimmy Stewart. Get over it. 

I relate to George Bailey. I know what it’s like to have dreams and then life just sort of takes over and before you know it you’ve got a family and a mortgage and are put in situations that try to force you to compromise. 

And it’s tempting to give in. Or give up. 

But George is reminded of the impact his life has had on others. That though his dreams may not have come to pass, his life is and has been a gift. To others. To himself. 

So he chooses to live. He chooses thankfulness. 

It’s a beautiful story. 

I love movies and don’t get to watch them as much as I’d like. Not reruns like these, anyway. But I might have to treat myself to a few Amazon purchases. I listed several that I don’t have that I’d love for Reagan to see. Would love to hear about some of your favorite movie classics in the comments!

Day Trippin: Escaping the Everyday 

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This. This is why I day trip. 

My daughter has discovered an affinity for photography. And she’s good. Crazy good. 

So I committed some of my remaining summer weekends to getting her out of the familiar, and letting her and her camera spread their metaphorical wings.

And I also decided to share these adventures with people we love. Because I love to make art, but I love to make memories. 

You see, long vacations are just not happening. For one thing, they’re expensive. And for another, I simply don’t have the time off to spare. 

What I do have is a new car that practically begs for some travel miles and thousands of options for exploration within 150 miles in any given direction. So the day trips are mini getaways. I told you about our trip to the Mississippi Delta

Here’s where we’ve been this month….

Last Sunday, our friend (and artistic mentor to both me and my daughter) LaRue joined us for a quick trip to the Gulf Coast.

The coast has changed dramatically in the last 12 years. Hurricane Katrina rocked our world in 2005 and there are many areas still recovering. Rebuilding. 

But the beaches look better than they ever have in recent memory. 

And though it rained. All. Day. We managed about a 30 minute break that enabled us to get some photos. But, alas, no sunsets. 

The pelicans cared not.

It was hot. Crazy hot. Mississippi-in-July kind of hot. But it was fun. And I’ll take a stormy day by the water over a sunny day somewhere else any day of the week.

We finished our day with dinner on the deck at Steve’s Marina in Long Beach. One of the advantages to traveling is the fresh fare of local restaurants. I enjoyed some of the best oysters I’ve had in a long time at this little gem on the water.

Would you just look at that? Beautiful. I’m sure, one day, a cardiologist will look at me like I’m an idiot. But y’all, life is short. I’m going to enjoy some fried delicacies along the way. 

Frying oysters is an art form. You can overcook them very easily to the point that they are just chewy bits of fried….stuff. But the people at Steve’s seem to know this, and I was not disappointed in my dinner. There are fans on the deck too, so even when it’s hot, it’s bearable.

Sharing this day with our friend just made it all the more memorable. We enjoyed a stop at Books A Million before heading south, and anybody that loves bookstores as much as Reagan and myself, well, they’re keepers as far as we’re concerned.

LaRue has become one of my dearest friends. There is a kinship that easily developed between us and she’s one of those rare people that puts actual effort into a friendship. In the short time I’ve known her, we’ve learned a lot about each other. Kindred spirits are hard to find. LaRue is definitely one of mine.

She is a precious and beautiful soul, an incredible artist, and a kind and endearing woman.

Yesterday, I picked up our cousins, Anna and Emma, and we took off for Natchez. 

Natchez is one of my favorite places in the entire state. I’ve been half a dozen times at least, but find new things every time, and love to revisit familiar places too. 

I knew, before the summer ended, I had to take Reagan to Longwood.

Natchez is fill of rich history. You can almost hear the Spanish moss whispering it’s secrets….

By the time we finished up our tour at Longwood, all the other places we might see from the inside were closed. We were hot, parched, and famished. So we headed to find sustenance.

We ended up at Bowie’s Tavern. Unbeknownst to us, they were having a benefit concert for a local citizen and the music was so loud, conversation was impossible. Still, we toughed it out. Ate our dinner. By the time we finished, these four introverts had experienced overstimulation in spades. So we left the baby boomers jamming out to Harold and his “sick beats”, and escaped to the quiet reverie of the Natchez Historical Cemetery. 

We wandered around in the pleasant evening breeze for a time. And then it started to rain.

We headed to some vantage points where we could get pictures of the mighty Mississippi, but again, no sunsets were to be had. 

 Still, the river itself is truly a sight to behold. Sunset, or no sunset. 

Anna and Emma are more than cousins to me. Or even nieces. They’re more like daughters. Extensions of myself. They are beautiful, unique, aspiring young women that, like my own daughter, have so much potential within. They are already exceptional in so many ways. Watching them grow up, just like watching Reagan, is the highlight of my life.

I hope when they are all grown, they’ll cherish the memories we made. The times we spent together. The laughs. The conversations. I hope they’ll do things together, long after I’m gone. And that they’ll remember these days. Look at the photographs. Maybe think of me. And smile. 

The summer heat will continue. The day trips will continue to happen some too, but with school resuming soon, they will be more limited. 

Life will soon cease to have the ease of summer and give way to the business of another school year. And I’ll get older. These girls will get older. 

The seasons will change. But the memories will remain. And we’ll continue to make them.

When Good Men (and women) Fall

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Men (and women) fall from grace every day. Every hour. Every minute. The flesh is weak.

Ask anyone I know and they’ll tell you that I don’t give a hoot about college football. SEC or any other conference. There is MSU memorabilia scattered throughout my house, but it’s my husband’s, not mine. 

I claim no allegiance. To a school. To a coach. To a player. I’m just an observer of the entire scene that surrounds college athletics and its superfans. 

And here’s what I observe: 

The coaches and players of the SEC take on an almost rock star status among those that love the conference and their team with passion and fervor. And I might be about to commit southern heresy here, but I’m going to say it anyway:

It’s just a game. They’re just men. All of them. Coaches. Players. They are all fallible human beings with struggles and corruptable hearts. Just like you. Just like me. Just like everyone else on planet Earth.

I’ve seen good men (and women) fall. It’s not pretty. If we’ve built them up in our minds at all, it can be an uncomfortable, painful thing to witness. 

First, we think about how much they’ve disappointed us. Hurt other people. We call them selfish, hypocrites. We cast our stones either publicly or privately, in the recesses of our own hearts and minds.

I hurt for Coach Freeze’s family. Their pain and humiliation is on a public stage that isn’t fair for them to have to navigate. But I’ll tell you someone else that I hurt for: the man himself.

I have experienced my own shame. Disappointed others that I love more than life. Rejected all that I knew and believed about a God that I tried to serve for something that satisfied my own selfish desires. And there is no excuse for it. But the flesh is weak.

I don’t hurt for the legions of Ole Miss fans. Not because I wish them ill, but because the world of football is so ridiculously minute compared to what is happening to this man and his family.

I’ve seen people talk about how much this coach was paid. All of his accomplishments during his time with the University. And it’s true. The man seemingly had everything going for him. He spoke publicly and willingly about his Christian faith. And I’m going to choose to believe that he was sincere about it. Not because of his words, but because from what I know about his actions outside the public eye. He does his best to live his faith. But the flesh is weak.

Truthfully, it’s on those mountaintops of life when we might actually be more susceptible to falling from grace. Because it seems, there, that nothing can touch us. 

I wonder, as I often do, what was going on with the man and his family, behind the scenes. What drove him to his deceit. There is much that we will never know. And rightly so, because it’s none of our business. 

Granted, I’m sure I’d probably have stronger feelings if he was coaching my son. But these are not children. These are young men. Impressionable still? Of course. But better for them to see that even our heroes make mistakes than for them to spend a lifetime pursuing perfection that doesn’t exist. In any of us. For any of us. There might be a better lesson in this whole situation that could teach these players more than anything their coach could have taught them on the field. 

The pain we inflict upon ourselves and others with the choices we make leaves a mark, yes. Scars will be left on Coach Freeze’s heart and the hearts of his wife and children forever. He failed them. He failed himself. And I cannot help but feel deep compassion for them all. 

But if he is willing, if his family is willing, redemption can be found. 

Maybe not in the public eye, but if that’s all they care about, then it will never come anyway. 

Personal redemption is what I speak of. A chance for pain and grieving to be turned into something strong and beautiful. 

Nothing about it will be easy. It will require consistent and steady applications of grace, forgiveness, and the understanding that, yes, no matter who you are, the flesh is weak. 

I have no envy of the road the Freeze family is walking. Its curves and potholes and detours are familiar to me. 

I don’t know the man or his family. But I know pain. One of the great equalizers in this life. And love Ole Miss or hate Ole Miss, college allegiance doesn’t matter. 

What matters in the response. The response of the Coach, owning and accepting his mistakes. The response of his family, letting it mold and perfect their faith in one way or another. And our response, it matters too. Maybe not to this family, but our response to others when they fall matters infinitely, to their hearts and our own. 

If you call yourself a Christian, our first duty is that of love. Whether it’s a public figure you admire and respect or someone in your personal life. The response should be the same. Love. 

People disappoint us every day. Can we extend grace? The flesh, after all, is weak. Isn’t it much easier to cast our stones? 

Good men (and women) fall from grace every day. It’s our job, our responsibility as Christians, to help them back up. Remind them of the endless grace that is free and abundant to all. 

True, it’s easier said than done. I know this. But our own integrity as Christians who claim to believe in Love, grace, forgiveness, and the power of redemption demands it of us. Even when, especially when, it’s hard.

After all, you never know when you might need these things too. And my guess is, you, as I, need them every day.